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Nine EU states baulk at board quota for women: EU source

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(BRUSSELS) - Nine EU member states have joined forces to thwart EU moves to set a 40 percent quota for women's representation on the boards of listed companies, EU diplomatic sources said Monday.

"We do not support the adoption of legally binding provisions for women on company boards at the European level," one source said, citing a letter sent to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and his deputy Viviane Reding, who is promoting the proposal.

The letter recognises that "there is a problem ... that there are too few women and there must be efforts to promote women but these should be national approaches," the source said.

"These efforts should continue ... that should be the way forward," the source added.

The sources named those signing the letter as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands and Britain -- likely enough votes to block the proposal coming to an EU vote.

Reding's proposal for greater women representation in the corporate board room has got a mixed welcome, with EU member states broadly welcoming the objective while expressing reservations over setting fixed quotas.

The issue came to head last week when the European Parliament blocked the nomination of Luxembourg's Yves Mersch to the all-male European Central Bank's executive board, demanding governments come up with female candidates.

Reding last year challenged companies to make a commitment by March 2012 that women would have 30 percent of board seats by 2015 and 40 percent by 2020.

The draft directive noted that the current "under-utilisation of highly qualified women's skills constitutes for the EU a loss of economic growth potential.

"The business case for more gender diversity on boards is widely recognised among stakeholders," it said.

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